I heart Halloween. It’s the funnest holiday.
Hubs and I got into a little verbal debate over that last claim a few days ago. I think that happened because I first said, “it’s the best holiday.” Of course, I was mistaken, as my better half pointed out. CHRISTMAS is the best holiday. There can be no debate on that point.
However, Halloween is certainly the most fun, at least in my mind. It’s all the festivity of the traditional holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but without the social, familial, and economic obligations. Basically, the good holidays minus the guilt.
I have to say also that I don’t enjoy all parts of Halloween. I’m not a fan of the creepy Scream outfits or the kids (and adults) who use the holiday as an excuse to worship Satan or trash people’s property. I am a priss, deep down inside, and toilet paper only ever really belongs in the bathroom. (With the possible exception of a good Mummy costume.)
What I really enjoy about Halloween is that it’s a day that celebrates cleverness. You don’t get a lot of those days. Perhaps you get kudos at work for coming up with a game plan that saves everyone lots of time and money, or maybe you figure out a new way to arrange your house so that everything fits better AND looks nicer. Your peers will praise you for these things, but these accomplishments are fleeting, gone almost as soon as they are complete.
Halloween, though, is different. Unlike other days, overkill doesn’t count towards “clever.” You can’t cover your yard in fake gravestones and think, “oh, well, since I put out 30 instead of 10, I’m totally set and very impressive this year.” Halloween demands actual thought. To really be a good Halloweener, you must up the ante if you’re going to play at all. Like half-burying a few old TV sets in that yard and writing names of canceled shows on all the gravestones. THAT is a good Halloween decoration.
The funny thing is that this kind of cleverness is not only toned down a notch for Christmas, but it’s actually sort of distasteful and uncalled for during the December holiday. No one likes to see Santa’s boots sticking out of a chimney. No one really cares for piles of “deer poo” in front yards. Christmas is a tasteful, classic holiday, and should be treated as such. Which is why I can safely call Halloween the “funnest.”
And, of course, appreciation for Halloween cleverness extends to costumes. Sure, you can go to WallyMart and buy a Whoopie Cushion costume. You can draw some stuff on T-shirts and create something passable pretty quickly. But the best costumes are the ones that are clever. They’re kind of like a good SNL sketch (remember when?): enough common elements to be recognized instantly by a large audience, but with subtlties that surprise, astonish, or delight.
So often, the devil is in the details (how appropriate, Mr. Devil, of you to be involved in Halloween details). A hockey jersey and heavy lipstick rather than the typical suit for “Sarah Palin,” or a set of sign-language flash-cards for a man in a monkey suit are easy examples, but some of the best costumes go further like “Flava’ Flav” with a digital clock around his neck (for “New Age Flava’ Flav”) or Courtney Love and a zombie Kurt Cobain.
Halloween is all about good stories. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. It’s a recognizable milestone, one that we can look back on decades later and recall fondly, with great clarity because of the mental acrobatics we put ourselves through to make the day memorable. The real winners in Halloween are the ones who manage to make others laugh, or think, or simply pause for a moment to fully experience the moment and take in all the little details that make a more meaningful whole.
Perhaps I’m taking too big of a jump, here, but I sometimes think that the Halloween season may (despite it’s less-than-impressive start) actually be the best holiday with which to remember our loved ones. It’s so rare that we know people well enough or long enough to have “movies” of them in our head. Often, it’s little moments, snippets, details of their lives and our time with them that we tend to keep in our heads. Even more, it’s the tiny bits of their lives that surprised or delighted us (good and bad) that we truly remember, and pass on as stories.
I’m not an expert on all of the origins or reasons behind All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day (11/1 and 11/2, celebration of those who have passed). But, whatever the motives, I think the old church got the timing just right.
(PS: Costume ideas, anyone?)